Movie Review—Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the movie everyone was asking for but nobody really wanted. And why wouldn’t a Star Wars fan want a Han Solo origin story? Because they know what to expect from Disney’s desperate pandering.

Focusing on the western film genre influences in Star Wars, Solo casts Alden Ehrenreich in the title role. This is undoubtedly due to his previous role as a goofy cowboy who can’t act in the Coen brothers film Hail, Caesar! Fan reactions to this choice were mostly negative. In discussions of who would have been better, many names are thrown around, including Chris Pratt (too obvious), Chris Pine (Capt. Kirk, really?), and Shia LaBeouf (seems like they weren’t even trying). In my opinion, all of those guys would have sucked, too. Clint Eastwood was the best cowboy of all time and therefore would have made the best young Han Solo. James Stewart’s ghost would have also been acceptable. Or Henry Fonda’s. Not John Wayne’s, though—fuck that racist dickwad.

Unlike his co-star, Donald Glover had the Star Wars nerds’ blessing with his casting as young Lando Calrissian. At least this is true for the Star Wars nerds born after 1985 who are too young to have ever seen the original films in theaters. In fact, Glover was so popular with this demographic that there was an online petition circulating to get the film retitled as Solo: A Lando Story. I have a feeling many of these diehard Glover fans were disappointed, however. Not so much with Glover’s performance, but with the writing. For example, it was a bit hard to believe Lando would be so obsessed with his Scratch n’ Sniff sticker collection that he would sob like a child after losing all the stickers in a poker game.

In a bizarre crossover, Woody Harrelson reprises his role as Billy Hoyle from the 1992 film White Men Can’t Jump. Most of Harrelson’s dialog was improvised, including a running gag where he keeps referring to Lando as Sidney (Wesley Snipes’ character in WMCJ). During most of his screen time, he’s getting his fingers slammed in spaceship doors, accidentally shooting himself with his laser pistol, slipping on space banana peels and otherwise engaging in over-the-top physical comedy. If you thought Woody couldn’t jump back in 1992, you should see him try now!

The main plot of Solo centers around Han’s acquisition of the Millennium Falcon from Lando. That’s right—this movie is two hours of poker. But the poker games keep ending in a tie, so the winner is finally determined by a game of Twister. As you can imagine, a Twister game involving Han, Lando, Chewie, and Woody eventually leads to a hard-core orgy scene. While I didn’t love this movie, I have to admit, the orgy was a satisfying climax to an otherwise dull story. Han ends up winning when Chewie blows his wad into Woody’s ass, causing everyone but Han to fall down on the mat like dominos. It’s an embarrassing way for Lando to lose the Falcon, to be sure, but it goes a long way in explaining how he ends up becoming the mayor of Cloud City. Alone and humiliated, he settles in Bespin because it’s a place where nobody has ever heard of him or the infamous Twister game. Meanwhile, Han and Chewie set out on the adventures they eventually become famous for. Like the time they have to jettison Jabba the Hutt’s bootleg Beanie Babies into space when the Falcon is boarded by Imperial Storm Troopers.

Solo is such a strange film that I have to wonder if director Ron Howard didn’t torpedo the project on purpose. Legend has it that during the shooting of George Lucas’s American Graffiti back in 1973, Harrison Ford tossed Howard into a pool, causing him to hit his head and sustain a concussion. Solo seems to be Howard’s attempt at revenge, with a direct attack on Ford’s legacy. Note: by “legend” I mean something I made up for this article, or rather something I changed so it would fit. In truth, it was actually Paul Le Mat who did the throwing, and it was Richard Dreyfus who landed in the pool. No concussions were sustained, but there was some bleeding.

We know Disney is going to keep making these Star Wars Stories movies no matter what. A Lando movie spin-off is not outside the realm of possibility, though it’s hard to say which would make this more likely: a successful run for Solo, or a Justice League scale tanking of the film. If not a Lando movie, then what next? A Repo Man re-make with Jawas? A Godfather-esque crime movie featuring Jabba the Hutt? Or maybe a movie about Walrus Man’s day leading up to the moment where he gets his arm cut off by Obi-Wan in the Cantina? Actually, they already did that last one on Robot Chicken, and it’s awesome. That one-minute-thirty-second sketch is so much better than Solo. 

Some fans have chosen to remain optimistic in light of an enthusiastic endorsement of the film by none other than Harrison Ford himself. The known grouchy pants who hates all things Star Wars shocked the nerd world with praise for Ehrenreich’s performance and for Howard’s directing. I think this endorsement should be taken with a grain of salt. Let’s not forget Ford is a crazy old man who hasn’t seen A New Hope since it originally premiered back in 1977. Sure, he reprised his role in that J.J. Abrams New Hope remake a few years ago, but he obviously only did that because they were killing off Han Solo. Harrison Ford has always hated Han Solo. I have to wonder if the real reason he’s endorsing Solo is that he’s hoping it’ll make the rest of the world hate the character just as much as he does.

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